When it comes to attracting businesses, Charles County has an image problem.
A conversation with the uninitiated goes something like this: Where is Charles County? Is that near Baltimore? The Eastern Shore?
"And you say, 'No, on the west side of the Chesapeake,' and that's when their eyes glaze over," said Marcia Keeth Stevenson, marketing director for the Charles County Economic Development Commission and the county's cheerleader-in-chief.
"We want people to think of Charles County as a suburb of D.C., because it is," she said. "People don't realize that."
To rewire business leaders in Washington and Northern Virginia, Stevenson plans to send out hundreds of new promotional videos encouraging them to move to or expand in Charles. The commercial is meant to sell newcomers on what people in Southern Maryland already know.
Yes, there are still rural areas. But Charles -- especially the Waldorf area, where more than 70,000 people live -- is a growing suburb with shopping and restaurants.
What is missing, Stevenson said, are more high-paying jobs. Sixty percent of the workforce commutes to jobs outside the county. In the most recent statistics, the per capita income in Charles is $33,226, compared with $39,247 statewide, Stevenson said.
Stevenson first plans to target people in the professional services industry, such as architects, accountants, engineers and computer system designers.
The theme of the video, which cost $26,000 to produce, is that the county offers the "best of both worlds." In the opening scene, the sun sets over the Potomac River, a goose takes flight from a piling and then a BMW convertible pulls away from an old barn.
The narrator says the county is "a place steeped in history but forward looking."
The video is not subtle in its attempt to overcome the confusion Stevenson says she often encounters about the county's location. There are flashes of the White House, the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument.
"It's close enough to the city to get the experience, but you don't have to live in the city," says one of the stars of the show, College of Southern Maryland president Elaine Ryan.
There are statistics: The drive to the Capitol is 27 miles, to Reagan National Airport, 24 miles, and the county is 15 miles from the Beltway.
"Charles County, Maryland -- in the center of it all," the narrator declares.
Those stuck in commuter traffic from Waldorf to Washington might think it's a bit of a stretch, but the video shows maps of Charles surrounded by military installations such as the Pentagon and the Naval Surface Warfare Centers in Indian Head and Dahlgren, Va.
Gregory Billups, who founded Systems Maintenance & Technology Inc., tells viewers that he chose Charles because of the county's central location.
In a direct pitch to developers, the narrator says, "The county is rolling out the red carpet for business." The video cuts to county Planning Director David Umling, who promotes the county's fast-track approvals for commercial projects.
"For economic development projects, we have a permit expedite program which allows the county staff to expedite and streamline the process to get approvals for commercial development," he said.
The video also features School Superintendent James E. Richmond, the county's new high-tech North Point High School and Charles County commissioners President Wayne Cooper (D-At Large).
Says Cooper: "I think Charles County has been a well-kept secret. It's ready to blossom."